Discover more from on hand
The Year I Ate New York
Issue 23: An essay for a job I didn't get.
Why hello there! Welcome to on hand! If you’ve landed here and somehow aren’t subscribed, I got you:
Last week, New York Magazine posted a job description for a Diner-at-Large role that would, “tell the story of New York City through 50 gastronomical installments.” The application asked for an essay about a recent night out instead of a cover letter. I applied, knowing it was a long shot, and got rejected in short oder. I liked my essay so decided I’d share it here!
My favorite nights in New York are the ones where you have a plan but not really a plan; the nights when you pick a neighborhood and just walk. When you pick a starting location and let the mood, your hunger, or “hey, that place looks charming” determine the rest. The dizzying array of options in New York take you on a choose-your-own-adventure evening and mean that no two nights are the same.
On a recent not-quite-crisp late summer night, a friend and I set out on one of these nights on the Lower East Side. I occasionally work at a wine shop, so post-shift, with a few opened, sample bottles of orange wine in tow, I met her at Ray’s. We had hoped we’d see Cousin Greg from Succession there, but instead we grabbed a couple of Modelos and silently judged the youths like the good thirty-something millennials we are.
We plotted our next stops. We wanted food but couldn’t decide on a cuisine. We wanted wine, and there were a lot of options. So we did it all.
We made our way down to Vanessa’s Dumpling House where the youths were somehow younger still, and we had to practice digestive restraint, reserving room in our bellies so we could order snacks at our future stops. We split an order of cabbage and pork dumplings (fried, obviously) and a Peking duck sesame pancake sandwich. The sandwich, a pillowy-nutty sesame pancake bun stuffed with savory and slightly sticky-sweet Peking duck, was so good I wanted another. D reminded me to pace myself. The people sitting across from us passed us the communal bottle of dumpling sauce. We told someone they should get a bag of frozen dumplings to go, even if they were going to a party next. That orange wine I’d tucked in my bag? We discreetly poured it under the table into small plastic cups and sipped it with our order. Maybe we’re just like the youths after all.
Our next stop was The Ten Bells, a place for more refined drinking and snacking. We shared a carafe of rosé, some jamón croquettes, and a crispy-carby plate of papas bravas while we imagined we were in Paris, not sitting in a parklette-slash-patio on a busy street. I’ve always wanted European outdoor dining culture in New York, so you know what, I’ll take our weird little outdoor dining setups. We gossiped. We drank. We listened to some guy try to impress everyone at his table with all the Portuguese wine he’d consumed.
After our carafe, we decided it was time for our next snack and decided pizza is always a great idea, when drinking or otherwise. We found ourselves next at Scarr’s and to our pleasant surprise, we had the back room to ourselves. Even a few drinks deep we could taste the nuance of the fresh milled grains that Scarr’s is known for. We ate our slices — folded in half with a satisfying “crissssp” — and drank some D'ussé colada slushies. We chatted with the staff as they closed up shop around us.
I took a picture of D blowing on her pizza to cool it down. It’s art.
Our last stop was Skin Contact, where I got one more glass of wine and D and I shared dessert. I got a nice glass of … something I don’t remember now. We got the panna cotta on the menu. The gentleman behind the bar warned us — it was the last panna cotta of the night and they didn’t have any of the toppings so we’d just get the chilled cream part of the dish. We excitedly accepted it and it was good! It was weird! It tasted a bit like cereal milk but also a little bit savory and we couldn’t put a finger on it. Every bite was confusing and delicious. We asked about the flavor and no one knew. The chef had left for the evening, but if we took a business card, we could email to get more info later.
I emailed the next day.
I’m still waiting to know more about that panna cotta.
Other things ~
Last Call for the Beer Bar? The New York Times looks at the fate of neighborhood beer bars.
Why Do American Grocery Stores Still Have an Ethnic Aisle? Priya Krishna looks at the outdated ethnic aisles that are found in grocery stores and investigates why it might not be that easy to get rid of them.